The UK Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm has officially bid farewell to 30-year carrier-borne STOVL operations when a BAE Harrier GR9 launched from the deck of HMS Ark Royal for the last time.

The aircraft carrier and the Joint Force Harrier squadrons have been scrapped by the UK government as part of broad defence-spending cuts.

The UK will have no naval air strike capability until 2020, when the conventional take-off naval variant of the F-35 fighter will enter service onboard the new aircraft carriers.

The UK government said the conventional aircraft were cheaper and had better performance than the STOVL variant.

The Joint Force Harrier will continue operating from its base at Royal Air Force Cottesmore until the aircraft are decommissioned.